Archaeological Museum of Kotte
A kingdom stood in the vicinity of our current suburban-capital for over 200 years. At its height, the Kotte kingdom was one of the strongest the island had known for centuries. In 1419 Parkramabahu VI succeeded in subjugating the Jaffna Kingdom and ruled over a united island- the last native king to control all of Lanka.
Withstanding internal intrigues and breakaway kingdoms, Kotte continued to be the island’s major power for over a century, but the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505 soon led to the kingdom’s collapse. The once mighty city was thoroughly looted by both the Portuguese and rival local kingdoms. Its decline was so sudden and complete that is virtually disappeared from history.
The shame of its intrigues with and sacking by a foreign power means the Kotte doesn’t hold an exalted place in the national memory like the much more ancient Anuradhapura. But the complexities of historical judgment aside, searching for remnants of a lost Kingdom in a modern suburb makes for a great day out.
It is, however, a bit of a tour of absurdities. These are not revered archaeological sites. These are historical stupas with homeless people sleeping next to them. They are ancient ambalamas turned bus stands. They are rampart walls now feet from houses and roving chickens.
Archaeology Department Museum
Like most of the nation’s museums, it’s a meagre collection housed in a very attractive building. While the old swords and faded diagrams don’t amount to much, the museum is handy as signs in the building list the neighbourhood’s historic sites. While you’re here you can read up a little on the history of Kotte.
Alakesvara Palace Compound
These are thought to have been the foundations of part of a royal palace, sadly very little remains to remind you of their former glory. What’s left today really doesn’t look like much – just raised square platforms that could be a half-finished construction site from the 60s. But make your way through the wire fencing crawl over kabook stone blocks, clear some of the long weeds to see the remnants of a tank and you can imagine yourself a real archaeologist uncovering the first evidence of a kingdom.
Baddagana Wherakada Ruins
A 5-minute bounce along the maze-like lanes of Etul Kotte will take you to an amazingly pleasant clearing. At the far end of this stands two well preserved stupa-like structures overlooking the Diyawana Oya. The stupas are perhaps 10 feet high and are made of kabook stones. Their layout suggests this wasn’t a temple and the historian Paranavitharane has suggested this is the mausoleum of King Parakramabahu VI, the last indigenous king to unify the island.
From the stupas, you can see our current Parliament so the erstwhile king gets a great view of our current rulers.